The point of no return is fast approaching. While Jose Mourinho's Manchester United reign continues to crumble, and potential replacements being ushered into view, it doesn't seem premature to ponder: where does Jose Mourinho go from here?
A chastening few years - from Chelsea's collapse from champions to 10th, to Mourinho's public fall-out with Paul Pogba - has led many to suggest that his methods may no longer have a place at the highest level.
For once, there is no obvious elite exit route, no Real Madrid waiting in the wings. So where could Mourinho go after Old Trafford?
In many ways, PSG are tailor-made as the next stop for the Jose Mourinho Experience: a new league to conquer (and he surely would conquer it, given the competition), a gargantuan budget to remodel with and, crucially, a club big and relevant enough to keep Mourinho at the centre of European football's attention.
The spanner in the hypothetical works, however, is that PSG probably don't need him. Worse still, they may not even want him. Eight points clear after eight games in Ligue 1, Brand PSG are domestically watertight and - while Thomas Tuchel may well become the latest manager who fails to deliver Qatar Sports Investments' ultimate dream of the Champions League within his two-year contract - why would they turn to Mourinho?
Last October, Mourinho told a French TV channel that "at the moment in Paris there is something special. Magic, quality, youth - it’s fantastic." More than eight years after he last lifted the European Cup, those are three qualities that few now associate with Mourinho's management style.
Mourinho himself regretted it even before he had made the move...he told me that he realised he was going to a business and not a family. Mourinho said that if he could, he would’ve remained at Inter.
Former Inter president Massimo Moratti, speaking last December, suggested that Mourinho's hasty exit to Real Madrid in the summer of 2010 - shortly after sealing a historic treble with the Italian club - was the source of some regret. In the space of two seasons at San Siro, Mourinho had quickly established the sort of siege mentality that used to serve him so well, yet now yields rapidly diminishing returns.
A defensive masterclass at the Nou Camp - a 1-0 Champions League semi-final, second-leg defeat that he called "the best loss of my life" as a ten-man Inter denied Pep Guardiola's Barcelona on aggregate - was one of the defining moments of a brief but fruitful love affair. Even if the club is almost unrecognisable since he left - multiple Far East-backed buyouts and a dozen managers in nine seasons - Mourinho's legacy remains rock-solid.
Luciano Spalletti is safe for now, as Inter - Serie A's most enduring basket-case of a club - find a semblance of stability, but Mourinho knows the door will always remain ajar for him. They also remain the bookies' favourites for his next job, if you care about that sort of thing.
It's more a matter of when rather than if Jose Mourinho takes control of his national team. Since the heady days of Euro 2004, when Portugal came within a Greek miracle of winning the tournament on home soil, Mourinho has frequently been asked about the extent of his aspirations for the job.
“It’s not during my career, it’s to end my career,” he said in 2014 . "I don’t have qualities to be a national team manager because a national team manager must adapt to the fact that he plays once a month and he trains twice a month and I don’t have that, I don’t adapt to that. So the job is not for me."
Mourinho reiterated his feelings this summer, two years after Portugal had claimed the European Championship under Fernando Santos, declaring "I am even further away from being tired now than I was a few years ago."
A man who once thrived on the day-to-day buzz of club management now looks thoroughly defeated by it all. It may take a few more seasons of press-conference punishment to seal the deal, but the prospect of Mourinho concentrating all his competitive spirit, tactical mischief and any residual knockout know-how into biennial, month-long windows seems closer than ever.
The ultimate homecoming? A return to where it all began, into the loving arms of a club who never had it so good as that summer of 2004? It wouldn't be quite so simple as that. Much like Chelsea, Mourinho's legacy with Porto is a slightly muddled one, having left so hastily after delivering an unlikely Champions League triumph, his medal swiftly removed even before the confetti had settled on the turf in Gelsenkirchen, a deal already struck to take his career to a new level in the Premier League.
In charge now is Sergio Conceicao, a member of Mourinho's Porto squad that season, and who delivered in impressive style their first title in five years last season. Even when the timing does become right, Mourinho would need to summon from somewhere that mid-2000s charm to win the more cynical portistas over again.
Nowhere at all
Amid all the speculation over Mourinho's future, one option appears to have been overlooked: simply taking a break from it all. The modern football manager leads an all-consuming existence - umpteen-hour days of coaching, man-management, press relations, solution delivery, recruitment (and the boardroom-level angst that goes with it) - even without the extra layer of near-pantomime theatre that tends to follow Mourinho around.
Mourinho's hope of a 15-year stay at Manchester United appears to have been wildly optimistic. If following his old rival Arsene Wenger into a tranquil retirement seems equally far-fetched, perhaps a break from the game might be the answer. A year-long sabbatical to rediscover what drives his football brain, to recharge his emotional batteries, perhaps even to realise that he is no longer as special 15 long years on from his Chelsea introduction, may be Mourinho's smartest move of all.